for this game

James, Cavaliers post convincing Game Three win

May 11, 2008 - 4:57 AM CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- The Boston Celtics look like a completely different team away from TD Banknorth Garden. Despite a continued shooting slump, LeBron James was glad to be home.

James scored 21 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers routed the Celtics, 108-84, in Game Three of their Eastern Conference semifinals series Saturday.

James, who shot just 5-of-16 from the field, contributed in other areas, adding eight assists, five rebounds, four steals and three blocks for the Cavaliers, who trail the Celtics, 2-1, in the best-of-seven matchup.

"I'm not a one-dimensional player, meaning that if I'm not making shots then I'm out of the game," James said. "That doesn't deter what I can do. I've always been a guy who can rebound, assist and do other things.

"I can't allow my shot to affect the way I play the game of basketball. I have to continue to do the things that need to be done for us to win the ballgame. Tonight, I was able to do that."

Delonte West scored 21 points and Wally Szczerbiak added 16 for Cleveland, which shot 54 percent from the field (37-of-69), including 10-of-19 from the arc.

Cavaliers coach Mike Brown attributed his team's accurate shooting to better fluidity on offense.

"We executed better," Brown said. "You've got to move that defense and, when you're moving it, you've got to move it with a purpose. I thought our guys were poised and patient and did that tonight."

Many of those shots were open looks set up by James, who continued to prove he is one of the best passing forwards in the game. But it's his poor shooting which had been a topic of discussion in the opening two contests of the series.

"He's our leader out there on the floor, so (the Celtics) feel that, if they take him out of the game, we are not going to be as effective," said Cavaliers forward Joe Smith, who scored 15 points off the bench. "I think he did a great job of getting everybody involved."

The 23-year-old James entered Saturday's game hitting on just 19 percent from the field. He missed a potential game-tying layup in Game One and looked deplorable from the perimeter in a blowout loss in Game Two.

As a result, Boston improved its record to 6-0 at home in the playoffs before dropping to 0-4 away from the parquet on Saturday.

Staring in the face of a boisterous crowd at Quicken Loans Arenas - much like the one at Atlanta's Philips Arena in the first round - the Celtics seemed overwhelmed from the start.

James played to the frenzied crowd after a steal by West led to his high-flying tomahawk jam to give the Cavaliers an early eight-point lead with 6:46 left in the first.

"We all came hard. We felt like we had to play with a chip on our shoulder," Cavaliers guard Daniel Gibson said. "We played aggressive and that was what we were really looking forward to doing and feeding off our home crowd."

The All-Star James, who was 3-of-5 from the arc Saturday, then nailed a deep 3-pointer to make it 27-8 with 1:52 left in the quarter en route to a 32-13 lead at the end of one.

"Obviously, you don't want to start a game like we started tonight," Boston forward Kevin Garnett said. "We talked about it in the locker room that we need to play with the same urgency like we have at home."

The two baskets represented the difference between home and away for James, who could not free himself for an easy basket or hit an outside shot in Boston. It was a good omen for the Cavaliers, who cruised the rest of the way.

"I haven't shot the ball like I've liked," James said. "A win is all that matters. Every shot that I've taken, I felt that it was going in. I knocked down some key shots during the course of the game. I do so much more than just shoot the ball. It was key that other guys stepped up."

Boston got as close as 12 points on two free throws from Paul Pierce in the third quarter, but Cleveland scored six of the next eight to take control of the contest yet again.

The Celtics' key contributors seemed either ineffective or hesitant. Ray Allen and Pierce combined to score 24 points on just 7-of-20 shooting for Boston, which saw an innovative defense from Cleveland.

"I'm not (worried)," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said of Allen's struggles. "He's a great shooter, he'll make shots. We like the matchup but we haven't gotten much out of it yet."

With Allen and Pierce struggling, the Cavaliers' West dared Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo to shoot by sagging off the second-year player and playing as a roaming help defender for much of the game. Rondo, for his part, did not respond, scoring seven points on 3-of-10 shooting.

Garnett collected 17 points and nine rebounds for Boston, which will aim to get back on track in Game Four here Monday.

"We can't take any credit away from the Cavs," Garnett said. "Delonte West stepped up and had a big game, Joe Smith had a great game and Ben Wallace was very active and effective on the boards.

"That was something that was missing from the first two games. I thought Paul guarded LeBron pretty well, but we over-helped and then broke down. We'll make adjustments for Game Four."

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